Will (Cougar Town‘s Josh Hopkins) is a Philly-based ad manager who heads to the silo and cow-heavy town of Lebanon following the death of his father. He quickly loses interest in the hustle and bustle of the big city as he becomes involved with a married high school teacher (Samantha Mathis), acts as an alternative father figure for the pregnant teenage daughter of his father’s second cousin, and learns the pleasures of mowing a lawn. Will he leave his overbearing mother, demanding boss, and disloyal best friend behind in favor of a simpler life? Probably, but there are plenty of other questions raised with outcomes that aren’t as predictable.
Lebanon, PA is all about life choices and the factors that contribute to change, be they religious, familial, or personal. Will the teenage daughter confront the pressure of her religious peers, abort her child, and attend Drexel U.? Will the high school teacher flee from her abusive husband and take a job as a vice-principal in a Philly suburb? Will Will bend to the pressures of his workaday world? It sounds like the set-up for a Lifetime movie, but the film actually has a charming, indie feel complete with handheld camerawork and a fitting score by indie rock-hero Matt Pond. Comparisons to Garden State are obvious and justified, especially in regards to their shared themes, neither of which are ultimately satisfying. We all know that life is full of choices, but when a film merely illustrates this rather than taking a stance on specific issues then really what’s the point? Decide for yourself.
It’s worth noting that the film beams with Philly pride, featuring appearances by Yuengling, a Chase Utley jersey, and the Berks El stop to name just a few.
Lebanon, PA opens today at the Ritz at the Bourse.